Saturday, October 1, 2011

Plant What You Want to Grow, Reap What You Sow

     Don’t know where September went but here we are in October and the rain is falling as I type.  We typically look forward to the first rain though we don’t care for the shorter growing season.  So fickle us humans are!
       Talk of rain is what prompted a fire drill to harvest everything that was close to being ripe as we’re all too familiar with mold.  Earlier this summer we pulled up many of the drying beans as the spring rains lingered on and mold was prevalent. 
       Today we’re halfway through cracking open the pods to expose the beautiful colors of Swedish Brown, Aztec Runners, European Soldiers and Tongue of Fire.  There is no discrimination here, especially when it comes to good food.  Our culturally diverse garden is planted with heirloom varieties from around the world.
       As we sit shelling beans in the afternoon we sometimes forget what we did in the a.m.  Not much time to think about doing we see what needs to be done and do it.  Until now we haven’t given much thought to the work that’s been accomplished and the bounty we’ve harvested so far.
       In the spring our seeds our planted and throughout the year they are subjected to watering, thinning and sometimes singing.  We carefully pull weeds that inhibit their growth and sometimes plant companions nearby them to help attract pests that feed on the developing shoots.  We depend on them to provide us with what we need to sustain ourselves.        
       Even though we’ve entertained guests from many walks of life, we’ve discovered that so few reap any kind of harvest.  Whether its professors and students from the nearby university (many of whom teach), health care professionals who heal, spiritual beings looking for peace and quiet or peak oil activists and writers preaching resource depletion, very few are harvesting a bounty to which they can sustain themselves.
       Most of whom I speak of are aware of collapse but have yet found a way to commit to securing their food source whether it’s doing the work themselves or hiring others to do it for them.
       Not only have we asked teachers if they follow the work of their students after classes but we’ve also asked students what changes they’ve made to their lives with what they learned?  After 4+ years of learning and a couple of R&R years, some say they’re in the planning stages of planting a garden and some are proud to announce they traded their SUV for a Prius.  Though good starts, we still don’t know how much work they’re capable of doing and if they really want to work for food?
       As mentioned in previous posts, many will find it hard to survive if their lives depend on doing the work necessary to plant, grow, harvest and process their food.  One can obtain a certificate or degree towards the many aspects of sustainability and many have, but what if any follow up is done to see how students are using this knowledge.  Do the teachers care what kind of success rate they have?
       Similarities abound between teachers and farmers who search for fertile ground to plant their seeds.  Both must be available to nurture change and encourage growth.  Some teachers put their students in the best position to help them succeed, as a farmer will plant seeds using the most favorable conditions to encourage the best yields.  Unlike a farmer though who has to maintain those conditions in order to see the fruits of their labor a teacher need only plant the seed.  Fertile ground requires care even when it’s not producing; one still needs to cover crop water and weed. 
       As producers of food we track our success rate every year by charting our bounty, here is a sample of what we’ve done in the past two weeks:

Started 5 gallons of Sauerkraut
Canned 28 quarts of Tomato Sauce
Canned 8 quarts of Apple Juice (apples were given to us from people who didn’t want to process them.)
Canned 8 pints of Ketchup
Started and canned 8 quarts of pickles
Cut and dried 35 quarts of tomatoes
Canned 10 quarts of tomato leather (made with a variety of other things, such as basil, kale, celery, onions and garlic.)
Cut and dried 4 quarts of Kale chips
Diced and dried 25lbs of peppers
12 lbs of frozen peppers (cut and removed seeds, mostly Anaheim)
8 gallons of blackberries
2 quarts of herb vinegar
Picked and shelled 12 lbs of drying beans
Picked, dried and froze 10 gallons of hops
Drying corn pulled up and hung to dry (approx. 225 ears)
Onions, pulled and cleaned
Cleaned up 8 garden beds and seeded with clover, fava and vetch
Also planted Fall garden including Lettuce, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Onions, Parsley, Chard and Bok Choy
Dried and made oils with Comfrey, Arnica and Lavender, picked and dried mint, skullcap, lemon verbena and calendula as well as collected seeds from Celery, Peppers, Tomatoes, Dill, Calendula, Nasturtiums, Chives and Hollyhocks.

       During this time frame we also had 2 Open Houses that we did together.  Though not many came, we still needed to make ourselves available as well as have our home and property looking respectable to sell.
       Maybe at this point you’re asking why we would walk away from a secure food source and for us the answer comes somewhat easy, it’s a whole lot of work for two people.  We built our garden for 4 or more people thinking it would be easy to attract others who see the rain coming.  Now for sale, our homestead welcomes those who are willing to maintain the work that’s already been done.  If we don’t sell, the worse that can happen is watching some of it go back to nature as it was.
       It’s great to hear the thanks for the work we do and it’s always wonderful to see enthusiasm from those who visit.  But, our success depends on others who understand the work that needs to be done, those who aren’t afraid to walk away as is so profoundly stated in “Walking Away from Empire”, a new book by Guy McPherson found here:
       Sometimes I find myself wondering why I didn’t continue working my $60,000 a year job with 5 weeks of vacation.  Afterall with the homestead paid for we could of lived a life of luxury compared to how we got here.  Though I occasionally think about it, I don’t spend much time entertaining such thoughts as I feel it was the right choice to make even if the outcome is not what we hoped for.  We just continue to plant what we want to grow and enjoy the harvest that it provides.


  1. I've got to grow some kale -- your kale chips sound wonderful. Thanks for the marketing, and may you always be surrounded by bounty.

    1. Ever try making those Kale chips yet? The bounty has been wonderful thus far, thanks for the good thoughts and support. Glad to see your name out there more and more all the time!